Discovering Hanoi

Discovering Hanoi

Characterised by rivers of motorbikes and waves of roaring horns, Vietnam’s capital city promises an unparalleled charm and intrigue within moments of arriving. A collage of conical hats (known as Non-La), food hawkers, and motorbikes cluttered with almost anything imaginable, paint a remarkable picture of Hanoi, its culture and its truly magical aura. A welcome mat of helpful locals and tantalising smells can be expected within moments of stepping outside the airport. However, this is just the beginning of a mysterious and beautiful realm of Southeast Asia.

Good to know:

To ensure the passage through immigration is as smooth and comfortable as possible, dress modestly.

Arriving at Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport is as pleasant as any other city. Provided all documents are in check, getting through immigration will normally take less than an hour.

The climate

Summer can be very humid in Vietnam’s capital, with temperatures often soaring into the mid-thirties. Winter is an entirely different kettle of fish; for a Southeast Asian city, temperatures can fall surprisingly low, often to below 10 degrees between late November and early February.

Getting around

A taxi ride from the airport to the city centre should cost 400,000 VND (US$ 17) at the maximum. To avoid disappointment, it is best to agree on a price before departing the airport. Alternatively, Grab bike is a highly trusted brand here and can significantly reduce travel costs. The same journey with Grab would likely be around half price. Once in the city, renting a motorbike offers the freedom and flexibility enjoyed by most locals. There are more than 5 million registered motorbikes in this city, so this method of travel is a clever way of blending in. Just be prepared to see bikes stacked with entire families, livestock or the contents of someone’s house, and the culture shock should be lower on the Richter scale.

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Safety in Hanoi

One of the first misconceptions about this incredible city is that it is dangerous. Although Hanoi does have a relatively high rate of traffic accidents, most of these typically result in nothing beyond cuts and bruises. The truth is that Hanoi is warped in gridlock at the best of times, meaning it is difficult to reach speeds beyond 20mph. The good news, according to the Hanoitimes, is that the city council are implementing measures to reduce traffic accidents by up to 10% in 2019.

Food in Hanoi

One thing that many expats worry about is access to food they are familiar with. New dishes can be quite daunting for some, and Hanoian locals have many customs which may seem outlandish when compared with the western world. Pets like cats and dogs are regarded as a delicacy here but are even enjoyed by expats as well as locals. On the other hand, the capital city has been in a race to modernise since the nineties and cuisines from across the globe can now be enjoyed here. Hoan Kiem is the most popular district with tourists and is rife with fine eateries, bars, and nightclubs. Most of the prefer Tay Ho district, a wonderfully modern part of town awash with stunning views of the lake.

The cost of living in Hanoi

One of Asia’s largest Supermarket brands, Big C, is present in Vietnam, with several outlets operating in Hanoi. This is the ideal place to buy groceries at affordable prices. For casual grocery shopping, Vinmart is the number one choice, and with one located on every street, finding one won’t be hard. As a general rule of thumb, living costs here are roughly a third of that of the UK, for example. A studio apartment can be as low as 6 million VND (US$ 256) per month, and street food can normally be enjoyed for 30,000 VND (US$ 1.2).

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